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Liverpool (Budget)

Volume 76: debated on Wednesday 3 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any plans to meet the leaders of the Liverpool city council to discuss its budget proposals.

Is not that an unreasonable answer from the Secretary of State, bearing in mind the special problems that Liverpool faces above all other local authorities, which the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges? Will the right hon. Gentleman now state what instructions are to be given to the district auditor concerning Liverpool? Has he made any plans to send in commissioners if the council refuses to fix a rate?

I have made it clear many times in the House that the responsibility for administering services, whether in Liverpool or any other area of the country, rests with the elected councillors of that area. I have no powers to put in commissioners, and I have no desire to put in commissioners. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence to persuade the Liverpool city councillors that they must now make a rate to administer their city properly.

Will my right hon. Friend remember, in his exchanges with Liverpool city council, that were he to make any concessions at all to the irresponsibilities of that local authority, that would be viewed with great concern by economic and responsible authorities such as Norfolk county council, which act in a responsible and economical way?

Despite the boasts of some of the Liverpool city councillors last year, it is now widely recognised in Liverpool and elsewhere that no concessions were made to Liverpool last year, and it is not intended to make any concessions to Liverpool this year. The responsibility for making a rate rests firmly upon that city council.

Notwithstanding the answer from the Secretary of State, does he not recall his attitude following the visit which he and his hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction made to Liverpool last year, when he saw the deplorable housing situation in the city? He promised that he would use his best endeavours to give more assistance to housing. Despite what the hon.

Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Powley) has just said about Liverpool city council, it is doing the responsible work of regenerating 17 priority areas. We welcome the new Tate in the north, but is it not a bit incongruous that the right hon. Gentleman offers largesse on the one hand for something that is hardly a priority in Liverpool, and on the other hand ignores the elected representatives of the people of Liverpool?

On my visit to see the housing of Liverpool the following question struck me: how did it ever get like that, and who carried the responsibility for it? Secondly, I was struck by the immense progress being made by the housing co-operatives in Liverpool. I deeply regret the fact that Liverpool city council has thought fit to strike them off its list of those who receive help from it. I hope that the council will have second thoughts and support the housing co-operatives, as they are doing extremely good work.

Not only is the Secretary of State's geography wrong today, but so is his history. Is he not aware that for 10 years his own party, in coalition with the Liberals, was responsible for the administration of the city of Liverpool? Does the right hon. Gentleman not recall that the Labour party has been in power for only just over a year? Is it not a fact that it has inherited an appalling mess from the right hon. Gentleman's friends? Why does he take such pleasure in being vindictive about that council's determination to help the people of Liverpool solve their problems?

If the word vindictive were to be used, it might be much more appropriately applied to some of the members of Liverpool city council with whom I have tried to work and by whom I have been kicked in the teeth. If the hon. Gentleman still has any shred of influence in that quarter, perhaps he will recognise that, generally, authorities which seek to co-operate with the Government on inner city policy make more progress than those which positively refuse to do so, and take pleasure in doing nothing but attack the Government at every possible opportunity.